WordPress Spam Comments

Why are there comments on WordPress?

When WordPress was rolled out to the public back in 2003 it was primarily a blogging platform, a facility for writers to self-publicise.
The term ‘blog’ is a truncation of weblog: a website for posting discussion or information, usually in reverse date order. Often a blog is used as a diary or journal published online for the public or selected users to see. Commenting enables these users to become part of the discussion. Perhaps, simply by agreeing with and endorsing the article, or conversely criticising the content or certain points made. Comments can also be far more constructive, often becoming mini articles themselves, providing valuable additional content.

Bring your WordPress site to life

Comments brings a blog to life, they extend the debate and enrich the article. They also raise the website’s profile, Google likes comments, it likes to see relevant and useful information; comments add to this (mostly).

Of course, not all WordPress-powered websites employ a commenting facility. As of 2017, WordPress is used for more than a quarter of the websites we see (as of 2017, there are over 18 million WordPress sites). WordPress is a content management system (CSM) and has many useful applications other than the blog. If you use WordPress to generate your website, it is your choice whether to allow commenting or not; it will depend on the type of website you are working on.

Unhelpful comments

As in life, not all comments are good. Some might be overly critical and considered unhelpful, depending on your point of view. Critical comments can however be very useful, and prompting them by writing on contentious subjects or with a contrary view is an effective way of generating debate (especially if you have a thick skin).

The unhelpful comments that produce the most aggravation are spam comments. Spam pervades the web; the modern day equivalent of the nuisance telephone call. In essence, a spam comment is a comment you don’t want, specifically one you didn’t request. Spam comments, annoying at best, can become a real problem on a website when uncontrolled. If your site enjoys a good level of traffic (and often not), it will attract the attention of spammers. Dealing with spam can be a very time consuming operation, but it needs to be done. Not only does comment spam create a bad impression for your site: one where the owner does not care about the content on it, but also Google dislikes websites that publicise or promote valueless websites. If your website displays spammy links it could be relegated in search indexes and possibly removed completely. Spam comments are therefore unhelpful to you, your site and your site’s users.

Why do people spam your WordPress site

People spam for self publicity, or to promote their or another’s website. Like the people that employ spamming, the services or products they attempt to promote are typically less than honourable and often illegal. Electronic communication is an extremely cheap way to reach a huge amount of people whilst bypassing the laws that prevent more ethical forms of advertising. So, spamming is cheap, easy and often very effective.

How to recognise spam comments

For us to deal with spam (without automatic control) we first need to identify it. Fortunately, once you know the pattern, spam is easy to recognise. Many new bloggers however get tricked by the types of comments that spammers use. It’s great to see your first blog post or article appear on your website. According to the International Telecommunication Union (in 2017), very nearly half of the world’s population — about 3.5 billion people — have access to the internet. Publicising your ideas and thoughts almost instantly to this huge potential audience is certainly exciting. When just one of them respond, the excitement multiplies. It’s not hard to see why any comment can be viewed through rose-tinted spectacles — ‘Hey, I got a comment, someone read my stuff!’ Especially when they can be so encouraging, complimentary, and seemingly thankful. A typical spam comment might say: ‘What a beautifully written article, your writing shows great understanding of the subject. Please lets see more of it.’ Lovely, who doesn’t want to read this type of comment about themselves? And who wouldn’t want to include this public endorsement and ‘pat on the back’ with their article?

Tell-tale signs

Unfortunately, the writer of the comment has probably not even read one word of your article. The comment could just as easily be applied to articles about bread making, donkey riding, or brain surgery. So there’s the first tell-tale sign: generic, artificial, irrelevant fluff. If the comment does not discuss your actual content, it’s most likely spam.

Look for the name of the comment author. Does it look like a real name, or is it made up or words that the author is hoping will be picked up by search engines? e.g. if you’ve written a piece about dog grooming and your comment author’s name is given as ‘Dog Clippers’, then you have your answer.

When users of your website post a comment, they can also include their URL (the address of their own website). Check this out, spam comment will usually link to some rather shady destinations (that’s its purpose). Do you want it publicised on your website? Do you want to provide a link for your other users to this particular website? Additionally, there might be links within the content itself, so check these out too.

How to moderate spam comments

So, we’ve identified our spam, how do we deal with, or moderate, it?
Depending on your WordPress setup, you might be alerted to the arrival of a new comment by email, in any case, you will see it when you login to your dashboard. When you see it, there are options to approve it, delete it or mark it as spam. By now, you should know what type of comment it is. So if it’s spam, mark it as such, or delete it. If you delete it, the comment goes. If you mark it as spam, the data is used to educate any spam-fighting tools you use (detailed in ‘How to reduce spam’, below).

If the comment is valid and worthwhile approve it. If it warrants any thanks on your part, then do so by replying to the comment. Occasionally, the comment will ask a question about the article content, and if so, answer it by way of reply. This is how your article gets enhanced, by adding further content that your users have asked for. Responding to your comments (the good ones) shows that you care about your readers and that you are happy to engage with them — we all like and appreciate that kind of attention don’t we?

How to reduce spam comments on your WordPress site

The most effective way to reduce comment spam on your WordPress site is to disallow it. There is a simple site-wide setting in the ‘discussion’ part of the dashboard found under ‘settings’. Uncheck the box: ‘Allow people to post comments on new articles’, and there will be no option for readers to comment. This is a default setting and be overridden near the foot of the editing screen of each individual post or page. To see this option, you might need to check the ‘Discussion’ box revealed by clicking on the ‘Screen options’ tab at the top of the editing window.

If you want to allow comments, but make it harder for people to successfully spam your site then there are other options in the discussion settings.
These are largely self-expanatory. For most applications, ensuring your readers fill out name and email will help, as will holding comments for approval. The latter can be relaxed by allowing previously approved commenters to post without moderation. If you want to encourage comments, then place as few obstacles in their way as you can — it’s a question of balance between spam protection and comment quantity.

Akismet

WordPress comes pre-installed with a very effective anti-spam plugin: Akismet. This is not active by default, and to use it you must register and choose a pricing plan. There is a free option for non-commercial applications. To use it, navigate to the ‘Plugins’ section of your dashboard and activate the Akismet Anti-Spam plugin; you will be guided through the registration procedure.

Akismet works by maintaining a database of spam (a large database). Each time a registered user marks a comment as spam, the details are sent to the database and this database is used to qualify comments made on registered users’ sites. So, this is why it’s useful to mark spam as such; it helps us all in the fight against spam.

Should I encourage comments on my WordPress website?

This is for you to decide. There is certainly a workload involved in both moderating and replying to comments. But, in return, your site benefits from another dimension. You get valuable feedback from your readers about what they like, dislike, and find interesting. All this will help you to develop your site into a more valuable resource. Commenting also brings with it networking opportunities that could be very useful for you and your website.

Additionally, as already mentioned, all this increased activity on your site will likely result in better rankings within search engines, thus bringing more traffic (and more comments) to your site.

Open up the discussion

Over to you, do you use comments on your site?

 

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It’s easy to get a web site

Of course these days it really is easy to get a website

If you want to go down the completely free route then just head over to WordPress.com or Blogger; your website, hosting, domain name, in fact everything will be completely free of charge. You’ll even have plenty of control over the content and be able to edit it yourself.

But, what if you want a little more control, flexibility and perhaps appear a little more professional?

The next stop would be to register your own domain, buy some hosting and probably install WordPress on your domain.

WordPress is great, according to which statistics you read, about a quarter of all websites run on WordPress. It’s well-developed, almost unendingly versatile and very well documented. And, if you don’t use premium themes or plugins it’s free to use and adapt as you like.

Alternatively, you could learn html and CSS and build your site from scratch; it needn’t cost more than your domain registration and hosting fees.

It is a bit like building a house

Buy some land, create some plans, buy some materials and start building.
We are lucky these days because no matter what you’d like to do, you can find out or learn about it; the knowledge is literally just a few clicks away.
Fortunately, with housebuilding, regulations ensure that the finished product is fit for purpose.
So ideally, the roof won’t leak, the house won’t fall down, and it will be secure. As for its appearance, unfortunately there’s no guarantee that it will look great.

So: self build or hire a professional?

It depends; not everyone wants to build their own house entirely. Some things are best left to the experts.
Similarly, how your website takes shape depends on many factors;

  • the time you have
  • your own knowledge or your desire to acquire it
  • your needs: are you a hobbyist, or running a business
  • the budget you have available

But, the skills involved in building an effective website extend beyond the actual construction. Getting the site up and running is only the beginning.
And it’s from this point that many do-it-yourself projects fall down. Getting visitors to see a website is increasingly difficult, and there are many factors that determine the amount of traffic a site gets. It takes hard work too, not just at the beginning but also on an ongoing basis. Search engines like to connect users to sites that are busy, well-constructed, easy to use and regularly updated.

Need quick traffic to a website?

There are short cuts to drawing visitors. Pay per click advertising can be very effective at attracting highly targeted visitors. Visitors that are looking for exactly what you can provide them with. The major players are of course Google and Facebook, but there are plenty of other options too.

Advertising with PPC is highly configurable and the targeting options are almost limitless. A cost-effective online advertising campaign can turn a struggling business into one that can literally turn on and scale the lead generation process. However, it’s also easy to tip plenty of money into the PPC money pit, with little return.

If you need help with web design

If you have a project in mind and not sure which route to take — either with design or marketing — get in touch and I’ll be glad to help.

 

Why do you need a mobile website?

What do the following figures represent?
1.12 – 3.21 – 7.12

Answer: they are percentages from Statcounter and show the usage share for mobile web browsers for August 2009, 2010 and 2011.

You might think that 7.12% is not a great amount, but when you consider that most websites render poorly in mobile browsers and offer a similarly poor user experience, it is a very significant figure. But look at that increase; what will it be next year? And, what would it be if more businesses actually designed their sites for the web?

According to a BBC Technology report on mobile use, half of UK internet users are accessing the web via their mobile phones.

The message, very clearly, is this: if you have a website (and few businesses don’t need one), how are you going to connect with this rapidly increasing market?

Mobile websites mean business: want to know more?

Get in touch and we’ll help you get connected to the mobile market.

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How can Google’s Adwords improve your offline advertising?

Anyone who markets their business online will have heard of Google’s Adwords; or they should have done. Adwords is Google’s name for their pay-per-click (PPC) service; it’s the very core of their business. Essentially PPC offers highly targeted advertising, it provides the facility to place your advert right in front of the very people that are looking for your product or service.
For example, your business specializes in repairing old Nikon cameras. You could use PPC to show an advert for your company when someone looks online for information about how to repair a shutter in a Nikon F1.
For the advertiser, this is great because you only pay to advertise to people who are looking for your service. You are not advertising to people who have a problem with their Pentax, or to people who want to take better pictures, or to people who want to photograph dolphins in the sea. PPC has been an advertising revolution for another very important reason too. If you advertise in a newspaper or a magazine your advert has to jolt the reader away from what they are doing (reading). With PPC, people are already looking for information and you (or your advertisement) can feed straight into that; no distraction necessary.

But, what has all this got to do with PPC improving offline advertising? Well, one of the great things about PPC is the rapid, measurable results an advertiser can get. Within a day of posting their advert they can see how many times it’s been displayed, how many times it’s been clicked on, and how many of those clicks resulted in an enquiry or sale (conversion rate). How long does that take to do with traditional offline advertising? Ages. With this fast feedback advertisers are able to test their adverts very quickly and cheaply. In particular, the all-important headline. It’s stated by various advertising experts that anywhere between 80% and 90% of an advert’s viewers will not read past the headline. The headline is absolutely vital in the battle to encourage a reader to find out more by reading on. Some headlines work and some don’t; there are certain rules to follow, but it’s almost impossible to predict what headline will perform the best. With PPC, headlines can be tested with high precision. It’s called split testing; all elements in the advert are kept the same, only the headline differs. After a few days, the results can be analysed and the better performing headline will be apparent.

What if you are advertising in magazines? Of course, with magazine advertising, this degree of testing is not possible, once the advert is printed, there it is — good or bad. However, if an inexpensive PPC campaign is run prior to placing a printed advert, then the best performing headline can be used in the magazine, thus ensuring maximum response.

Free ebook download — Seth Godin

It’s always nice to be able to give something of great value. Yes, give.
This is a fantastic book about permission marketing by one of the great business writers, Seth Godin, it’s called Unleashing the Ideavirus.
Seth explains how, in this age of such rapid information exchange, good ideas can be spread extremely quickly.
This is very relevant for anyone selling anything, be it a product or a service.
You can buy the book in hard copy from Amazon, but on my main site you can download the digital ebook version absolutely free; no strings attached. And don’t worry, it’s is completely legal.
Download the Ideavirus by Seth Godin.